The Deshaun Watson Saga in Houston grabbed some headlines while Wildcard weekendand we’re now on the last eight in the NFL playoffs. Two teams that didn’t win AFC North made big statements but can win on the road again this week?
We asked our experts about Watson and the four games this weekend. Which teams should give the Texans quarterback a big boost? Which home team is upset this weekend? How about a bold prediction with some conviction?
Let’s give some advice to Texans: what should the organization do? right now to improve his relationship With Deshaun Watson?
Matt Bowen, NFL Analyst: Improve the lines of communication with Watson. From an organizational perspective, the Texans can be more transparent about their top goals in the position of head coach, with the aim of maximizing the Texans in Watson’s best playing years.
Jeremy Fowler, National NFL Writer: Stop making promises you don’t keep. If the key problem is that Watson learned that he was involved in the hiring process of a general manager and head coach, then he was not consulted at all, maybe you will stop. Make it a part of the interview process with your top head coaching candidate – bring them together on a whiteboard and work out opportunities in the field – to restore the positive vibe. Then bring the man some playmakers on the offensive via the free agency. There are a dozen marquee pass catchers who would instantly improve the attack.
Dan Graziano, National NFL Writer: Re-sign the WR Will Fuller V.. Look, that’s a collection of things with Watson and the organization, right? They acted DeAndre Hopkins last season, and Watson still managed to get the offensive going with Fuller, Brandin is boiling and Randall Cobb. If you don’t want to get the coach he wants, signing free-agent Fuller (who may even get a slight discount due to his injury history and still-current drug suspension) is an olive branch that tells Watson you don’t make it harder for him.
Jason Reid, the undefeated senior NFL writer: Give Watson an important contribution to the head coaching search. Whether there is simply a bona fide misunderstanding between the team’s CEO, Cal McNair, and Watson or McNair that misled the organization’s franchise QB, one thing is clear: Texans are in a terrible place and need to be solve it. Fast. Mending fences with Watson should be high on the Texans’ to-do list – even before a new HC is hired. Watson has just completed its 25 year season. In terms of league passers-by in Watson’s age group who have a similar talent, they can be counted on one hand. As for the future of their franchise, Texans need to be on one side with Watson again. Or something as close as possible.
Seth Walder, author for sports analysis: Don’t just ask Eric Bieniemy. Hire him. First of all, he’s a great coaching candidate. But there is also the following: The projection of the head coaching performance is a process full of uncertainty. Even if Bieniemy isn’t Houston’s first choice, the difference between what Texans would expect from him and what Texans would expect from their first choice – whoever that may be – is certainly less than the difference between Watson and , well, not having Watson.
Field Yates, NFL Analyst: They just did it by asking to interview Bieniemy. Maybe it’s too little, too late. Maybe an interview with Bienemy wouldn’t be an offer. It’s good. Texans must take every step to pacify their quarterback, and it is no wonder Watson respects Bienemy’s work in Kansas City. This doesn’t solve everything – far from it – but it’s just one of several steps the team can take to smooth things out.
If the Texans and Watson can’t sort this out, which team should go out of their way to act for him?
Bowen: Dolphins. I don’t see Texans moving Watson, but if we put together a potential package then maybe the dolphins will fit in here. That deal would send quarterback Tua Tagovailoaplus this year’s No. 3 and No. 50 to the Texans for Watson.
Fowler: Washington. Whenever you talk to league staff about which teams could take advantage of the QB options this off-season, Washington keeps popping up as an option. This team is better than many expected, has stability under Ron Rivera and will try to do the same for his quarterback position.
Graziano: 49ers. You could bring any of about 25 teams here, but I’ll throw an arrow and say the Niners should offer the 12th overall pick as part of a package that Watson combines with Kyle Shanahan. The team no longer owes Jimmy Garoppolo any money and can cut him without penalty. The squad is deep and talented and needs to be healthier next year than this year. Watson instantly brings it back to contestant status.
Ryan Clark responds to Deshaun Watson’s frustrations with the Texans’ GM hiring process.
Reid: Dolphins. Let me get that straight: I very much doubt Watson will be traded. The truth is, teams aren’t acting Watson’s kind of QBs. I never thought the Texans would be in that position, especially not soon after Watson was made the second highest paid player in NFL history. However, if the situation in Houston continues to deteriorate, Miami will have asset drafting in combination with QB Tua Tagovailoa as the basis of any trade package to at least arouse the interest of Texans.
Forest: Patriots. I rightly think about 25 teams should consider acting for Watson. But let’s go with the patriots. They need a quarterback, are out of reach of the top tier of the draft, and have the option to pick up Watson – although it won’t be expensive in 2021 – and spend to make improvements elsewhere. To land it? It will take a lot to beat the other interested teams. I’m dealing with running back Damien Harris, the RFA right J. C. Jacksonwho have favourited this year’s picks for the first, second, fourth and fifth rounds as well as the first and third rounds in 2022. And Jarrett Stidhamif you want him. But the advantage? Again, combine the greatest soccer coach with a top 5 quarterback.
Yates: Jets. No team has a more seductive package of picks than the Jets, which could offer four top-rated (their own plus two from Seattle) in the next two drafts. While the Jets might decide this off-season, the best realistic plan for them to stick to is Sam Darnold and use the second selection to either trade or build around it. It is obvious that such a plan could change if Watson were available.
Which home team is most likely to lose this weekend?
Bowen: bills. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ multi-dimensional running game could present a challenge for a Buffalo defense struggling to maintain gap control and defeat blocks. Look for the ravens misdirected to lean on their counter-rotation game to get both numbers and speed on the perimeter.
Fowler: Saints. In the eight games since his week 9 against New Orleans, Bucs played quarterback Tom Brady has passed for 2,616 yards and 22 touchdowns. He found something out, and not a lot of crimes are hotter than Tampa’s. Brady also seems to want this matchup as a personal challenge. Marshon Lattimore always gives Mike Evans Problems in the field, but the Bucs have enough weapons to overcome that.
Graziano: bills. No team went hotter to the playoffs than the Bills, and I don’t necessarily think they’re going to lose this game. But you’re wondering which is the most likely, and the success the Colts had against Buffalo last week makes me wonder if Baltimore’s violent attack could pose any bigger problems for the Bills’ defense. Also, the Ravens’ defense against a very good offensive in Tennessee looked pretty tight. Baltimore could be the devious team that climaxes at just the right time to cause trouble.
Reid: bills. The full power of the ravens was evident in their victory over the titans in the wildcard round. QB Lamar Jackson was impressive in his first playoff win of his career, but can we talk about that defense in Baltimore? The ravens limited Derrick Henry to 40 rushing yards and a 2.2 yard average. Enough of it. Though the bills were hot in the playoffs, the ravens sizzled too, winning six straight wins, including the postseason. This week they’ll be extending their streak to seven in a row.
Forest: bills. Last week, Baltimore’s defense suspended the Titans’ ground play. This week the challenge ends Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs through the air. But that’s what makes this raven defense so special: It’s strong in several ways. It ranked fourth in the EPA approved per rush game, but fifth in the EPA per approved pass game. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith will make it difficult for the recipients of the invoices.
Yates: Saints. I don’t have a strong feeling that a home team will lose this weekend, but the Buccaneers have played strong football for the past five weeks, although I admit their schedule hasn’t been daunting. And to win against the same team three times in one season is not easy. I could have made this argument a lot easier: Tom Brady.
Give us a bold prediction for this weekend’s games that you feel strong about.
Bowen: The rams are limited Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing game. With multiple fronts and planned pass-rush matchups, Brandon Staley’s defense can put pressure on Rodgers. And that plays into Staley’s split safety covers Jalen Ramsey in situational matchups versus Davante Adams.
Fowler: The bills hit the ravens handy. Lamar Jackson, who broke through in Tennessee last week for his first playoff win, was the action, but the Ravens offensive didn’t look very explosive against a Titans team with limited pass rush and second game. Expect Buffalo’s defense to constrain big games, forcing Jackson to beat them with the interpass game. Josh Allen will do the rest.
Graziano: The saints will blow out the buccaneers. I think this is a bad matchup for Tom Brady’s bunch. I’m not buying the old adage that “it’s hard to beat a team three times” because since 1970, teams that have beaten a team twice in the regular season and seen them in the playoffs have been 14-7 in rematches I’m a little more hesitant than I was a week ago because I was very impressed with Tampa Bay’s passport protection against the Washington front. But I think being a four-time defending champion against a ragged upstart is a point of pride for the Saints, and I think Drew Brees will find a way to win his last game against Brady.
Dan Orlovsky and Adam Schefter analyze what options Pittsburgh could have if Ben Roethlisberger continues or decides to deviate from him.
Reid: After all the talk about it over the past few weeks Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, likely to win the Associated Press Most Valuable Player Award, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes will remind the NFL that he’s pretty good too. The reigning Super Bowl MVP will be putting on a show to lead the Chiefs to their third AFC title game in a row.
Forest: What the hell, I’ll do it: the Browns will take out the Chiefs. It will take one Myles Garrett Takeover game for defense and performance of Baker MayfieldLife, but … anything is possible. I think the Browns are trying to accept high variance – how about a surprise onside kick? – and hope the ball bounces its way.
Yates: The Browns will hang out against the Chiefs. After the blow at the Steelers, I’m unlikely to get upset again, but the Browns are a resilient bunch and that gives me confidence that they will make things uncomfortable for the Chiefs for a while on Sunday. Sometimes we try to give you a very specific, nuanced insight into how something can happen, while sometimes it is important to reduce it to the essentials: If the Browns can get the ball out of the way early and make Patrick Mahomes a spectator, they have the chance to be awake.
Should bring the Colts back Philip Rivers or looking for a new quarterback?
Bowen: Bring back rivers. With a run-heavy system and a passing game that relies on crossers and in-breakers, Rivers is still the best fit for the Colts. Adding another midfield goal for rivers – with dynamic characteristics – should be a priority for the Colts this off-season as well.
Fowler: Elsewhere. Rivers did well at Indy, but the Colts signed him to a one-year contract for one reason: it was a stopgap deal. The bigger piece should attract Detroit Matthew Staffordwho may be beyond the constant rebuilding of Lions. The Colts roster is now complete and needs an elite quarterback in its prime (Stafford is 32) to outperform the team.
Graziano: Both? Why not bring Rivers back and design a QB because Rivers obviously won’t be there forever? We don’t even know what Rivers wants to do yet, but assuming he wants to get back to the very Rivers-friendly situation he played in this season, the Colts can try another run with him while they’re over it at the same time think about what’s next.
Reid: Bring back rivers. The Carson Wentz talking is interesting and everything, but who knows what that Philadelphia Eagles Will do? Next season, the Colts will rely even more on outstanding returns Jonathan Taylor. For one more season they can make it work with rivers.
Forest: Bring Rivers back but be ready to make your first choice for a future quarterback and / or grab a junior quarterback flyer that might be available (Tua Tagovailoa? Sam Darnold?). It’s a bit tricky, but you have to start throwing a few arrows at the long-term quarterback.
Yates: Bring back rivers. While rumors persist about the possibility of the Carson Wentz acquisition, it is not certain that he would be an instant upgrade over Rivers. In addition, Rivers had great moments for the Colts this season and were an integral part of their culture, an area that both coach Frank Reich and GM Chris Ballard appreciate so much.
The Steelers have an aging quarterback and cap problem. What should be your off-season priority?
Bowen: Correct the running game. The Steelers’ inability to consistently play football – especially in short-range situations – needs to be addressed. Use the free hand and draft to improve the offensive front, with linemen that bring movement characteristics to enhance the zone play.
Fowler: Leave it with you for another year Ben Roethlisberger but with significant changes along the way. Look, Roethlisberger is not going to retire and the Steelers are not going to cut it just to keep $ 22 million of dead money on their books. So the cleanest way is to restructure your invalid year contract to lower the $ 41.3 million cap last year from your business. But make it clear that this is the final year by upgrading the quarterback spot – either by trading, drawing a quarterback, or giving a bridge option like Sam Darnold Mason Rudolph more chances. Reimagine a crime that relies heavily on five broad, straightforward sets with no constant play. And find the semblance of a game in progress to bring Pittsburgh back to its hard roots.
Graziano: Find Roethlisberger’s successor. Even if Ben is back (and I can’t see him getting back to his current contract), the ghost of his retirement will be a constant presence in Steelerland until it happens. They need to figure out what their next step at QB is, whether they’re taking it this year or 2022.
Reid: This one is simple: recreate the running game. Both in design and in the free agency, the Steelers have to fix a running game that is in a dire state of disrepair. This cannot go on. Well, not if the Steelers want to be the Steelers again.
Forest: Quarterback one way or another. When Roethlisberger hangs up, I would see it Jameis Winston as a short term solution for cheap while you take a long look at the Trey Lance/.Mac Jones/.Kyle Trask Level of quarterbacks in the draft. But even if Roethlisberger is back in the squad, it is better than later to invest in some lottery tickets at QB.
Yates: Expand T.J. watt. Watt could win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, an incredible feat for the Steelers’ dominant edge rusher. While such a reinvestment wouldn’t be motivated by the possibility of cap flexibility, a deal in 2021 would almost certainly create a healthy amount of cap space for Pittsburgh, which is a material tangential impact on Watt’s value for the franchise. He’s his best player.